Thursday 25 January 2018

OCD Makes My Life Hard

I am checking for my wallet again. It's the third time I've done this and I don't actually want to do it. But I'm scared that it's gone. What if it's missing? Then I have to go get my driver's license again and my debit card replaced. My OCD makes me compulsively check to see that things are in place. I want to feel comforted. I want to feel like things are okay. I'm working on positively reinforcing myself when I refrain from checking, which is a treatment for OCD. The less I engage with checking the better. The more I can practice self-control and work in therapy with this behavior, the better it is for me and for the people I am close to.

I want to be better, but I know that "better" is a judgment on myself. Let me rephrase - I want to be able to control the compulsions to check things. I want to not have a mental illness but I don't have the choice. We are born into this world with certain flaws if you consider mental illness a flaw; some people don't. In any case, living with mental illness is hard. Living with bipolar disorder is difficult and people do the best that they can.

The same goes for OCD. OCD is considered an anxiety disorder and it's frustrating. Sometimes my brain doesn't let me function. Sometimes I can't do what I'd like to do. I want more for myself than this repetitive thought pattern nonsense. My brain is glitching and I know it's not my fault or my brain's fault. It still doesn't make it easier. It makes me feel bad about myself. Even though I didn't do anything wrong.

OCD is something that we cannot control to an extent. CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) helps to fight against negative thought patterns that keep us from having a positively charged life. But, CBT is part of a treatment plan. Psychiatric medication has been found to be effective for OCD and it helps alleviate the intensity of the thoughts. Exposure therapy is another treatment which helps address the symptoms of OCD and give people some clarity on how realistically dangerous their thoughts are.

OCD is creative and it tries to focus on what we fear the most. For example, I am afraid of dying and my OCD knows this and plays off it. It tells me I am dying of a mysterious disease and there's no hope for me. It's sad and scary, but I've learned to recognize the signs of the destructive thought patterns and talk about them in therapy. That's the most important thing right now.

If you're out there struggling with OCD and intrusive thoughts about your fears, please know that I am with you. I feel your pain! There's hope for you.

About the Author

Sarah Fader is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Quartz, Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, HuffPost Live, and Good Day New York.

Sarah is a native New Yorker who enjoys naps, talking to strangers, and caring for her two small humans and two average-sized cats. Like six million other Americans, Sarah lives with panic disorder. Through Stigma Fighters, Sarah hopes to change the world, one mental health stigma at a time.


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